Members of The Major Center of Excellence spent a day viewing and analyzing expedition film at the University of Minnesota campus as part of its IAS Thursdays series on December 8. Students attended Cinema on the Move: Museum-Sponsored Expedition Film from the Silent Era, where they had the opportunity to watch, explore, and discuss expedition films of the 1920s.
The discussion focused on the 1920s expedition filmmaking of William J. Morden, a field associate in mammalogy at the American Museum of Natural History, and the genre of expedition filmmaking as a whole.
The talk was led by Alison Griffiths, a professor at Baruch College, CUNY and a member of the doctoral faculty in Theater at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she teaches film history, visual and media studies, and corporate representation in media.
The Major students were struck by the imagery and execution of the silent films, as much of the footage brought a visual representation of exotic locations to the masses for the first time.
“I thought it was really interesting to see what the explorers filmed on their expedition in Asia and the guesses made as to why they shot those particular scenes,” said Amanda DeShane ’18. “Seeing clips from the silent film were incredible, especially the tall looming mountains in many of the backgrounds. I really enjoyed the experience of hearing the lecture, showing pictures, and videos from the film.”
“I really enjoyed this opportunity to watch old footage from the silent era,” added Zoe Chen ’19. “The spirit of those early filmmakers, working in that tough environment, was really incredible.”